Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Hello Everyone.

If you follow this blog you know that their has been a bit of a lag in posts compared to the frequency with which I generally create posts.   If you are not aware, I am a choir director at my church.  This is the third year that I am assisting my wife with the Children's Choir program in addition to working with our Worship Minister to create original arrangements for our adult program and help ensure that the vocal side of things is solid.  I would be lying if I said it wasn't taxing however, it is a blessing to serve God and point others to him in this way.   So this has engulfed our world in addition to the rest of life this holiday season.

So I am taking a bit of a sabaticle probably until the New Year.  I am still working on posts but will likely not finalize or post anymore until at least January outside of this one and maybe a Merry Christmas one. 

I would like to take this opportunity during this Thanksgiving season to express my gratitude for all that God has done in my life this year.   First and foremost, I am so very thankful to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who has taken me on an unexpected journey this last year.  A journey of spiritual growth and maturity in which God worked on my heart.  This work has not only improved(though he certainly isn't finished) my functionality as a father and husband but has helped me to realize a much more solid sense of the direction in which he is taking me. 

This year has seen the birth of this blog which many have said is a blessing to them and has certainly been a blessing to me.  I have grown so much in my knowledge base and my ability to express the convictions of my heart through the exercise of this blog.  I also delivered a message to the Sunday night congregation at my church this year.  Definitely something I would not have thought of myself.  This year has also seen God move me behind the piano to accompany the praise and worship instrumentally along with my worship leader.  The resolve to do this also was unexpected.  I still have a long way to go Lord willing but, he has taken me farther than I thought possible in such a short period of time. 

If this year has taught me nothing else, it has taught me to not plan to far into the future.  It has taught me to trust God and rest in the sovereignty of His plan while still working out my salvation with fear and trembling.  And it has taught me to trust God with the spiritual growth of my family while still striving to be responsible as the spiritual leader, husband, and father in our household.

Outside of my relationship with God, my relationship with family, most especially my wife and chldren, is what I am most thankful for.   My beautiful, sweet, faithful wife.  Considering the reasons that people get divorced in this day and age my wife and I could have gone that route any number of times.  Anyone who thinks marriage is supposed to be easy is kidding themselves.  I am so grateful for my life partner, best friend, and confidant.  She does not like change and has little confidence in herself at times but she always rises to the occasion.  She has absolutely no valid reason not to believe in herself at this point in life.  She is a super talented, creative, loving woman and I am blessed to have her.  We have also seen unexpected transition in the family this year as a result of God blessing my wife with a job.  She is an assistant  teacher for Guilford County Schools and she is perfect for it.  She has already made a name for herself in the brief period of time that she has been on the job.
Now for my children.  Two handsome, loving, rambunctious boys ages 8 and 4.  As always, outside of God and each other, these two children are the reason my wife and I wake up in the morning.  They are such a blessing to us. Adorable, super smart, talented, ambitious, well liked by everyone and the list goes on.  We couldn't ask for anything better than these two. 

Yep, it's been a challenging year in many ways and a blessed year in many ways.  But that's what makes life interesting isn't it.  Praise God that he is faithful.  As we strive to put him first in our family more and more I know that His grace will abound and the opportunities he will present to serve him faithfully are endless. 

Last but not least I want to thank everyone who has supported this blog.  I had no idea what I was doing when I started and some might say I still don't  :-)  But learning is half of the adventure.  I would like to encourage everyone this holiday season whether you are a professing Christian or not to say a prayer before you go shopping.  Whether it be for black Friday or at any other time, ask God to give you the grace to resist the tempation to allow selfishness to bring out the worst in you.  If you are a Christian especially you have a responsibility to let your light shine.  To show the love of God and the character of Christ to everyone you meet.  Try not to look at everyone else as someone you are competing with.  Rather, see them as a potential lost soul in need of God's grace. 

As the saying goes, Jesus is the reason for the season.  So let's show our love for Him in the way that we represent him during this holiday season that should be ALL ABOUT HIM!


In Jesus name,


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Purpose of Prosperity is Provision, Not Self Indulgence (Part 2)

Ok. So if you are back after the last post, thank you.  That post, if you have not read it deals with several misconceptions surrounding scriptures and thought processes about prosperity.  I encourage you to go back and read it.  In case there is any doubt, I am not opposed to the idea that God prospers us.  Prosperity is absolutely a biblical principal.  It is the manner in which it is taught sometimes and the way that the church body understands this truth that I am striving to address.

Too many in the church want to stand on Kingdom principles and claim all kinds of things in the name of Jesus. This, while the lives of hypocrites in the church and even well meaning Christians are not reflecting a Gospel-centered lifestyle.  I have been guilty of it myself.  Jesus, his brother James, John, Paul, Timothy, Stephen, and many others in first century Christianity lived a Gospel-centered lifestyle.  The early New Testament church was very eternity minded.  Everything about their lives revolved around the Gospel.  Paul built tents for a living, Peter and some of the other disciples were fishermen.  However, they did not fit Jesus into their schedule.  No, their schedule revolved around Jesus and the spread of the Gospel.  Their resources were dedicated to their basic needs and the cause of Christ.  And, they walked by faith in obedience and not by sight. 

Today, in America, we do good to squeeze in fifteen minutes of Bible and prayer time a week, much less a day.  It is as if following Jesus were an obligation vs. the number one desire of our hearts.  We cannot expect God to truly prosper us in every aspect of our lives unless every aspect of our lives revolves around and is completely surrendered to Christ and his purpose.
In Luke 16:10-12, Jesus says to, wrap up a parable, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?"
God rewards faithfulness, obedience, and good stewardship in every area of life.  It is important to remember, as I have said before, the manifestation and timing of that reward is up to God.  He knows your need and he knows the condition of your heart in regard to when you receive the reward or increase.

In 3 John 1:2 the apostle/disciple John states, "I pray that you would prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers."  An indication from a respected man of God, who was trusted by God to pen God-breathed words as scripture, that if our soul prospers, then it is more likely that we will be in health and prosper in other areas of life.
  I want to be careful because that is exactly the kind of thought process that people use to claim divine health and create doubt of faith or relationship with God in those that don't experience divine healing or financial abundance.  As I stated in the first part of this two-part post, even Paul suffered afflictions that never resolved themselves, that God might show himself strong and get the glory.  In this life, which starts now and goes on for eternity, the promises of God may take place here on earth or in Glory but at some point, if we are believers, we will see all of God's promises come to pass.
 With that said,  the fact remains that the best possible path we can walk and story we can live here on earth will be one that is wholly surrendered to God, centered on the gospel, and purposed for His glory.

Here are a few scriptures that speak to prosperity in the word.  The parts about prosperity and wealth are often quoted without the rest of the context that speaks of the cost required to have God's favor resting on you.
Deuteronomy 8:18
"But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today". 
 Now, it is important to realize that this scripture is in the context of a long reminder from the Lord to Israel instructing them not to forget that all of their blessings were because of His provision lest they become conceited.  So if he felt it necessary to warn them about pride regarding blessings and prosperity then perhaps we should heed that warning as well.  In fact, I think it's worth mentioning that if you start at the beginning of ch.8 and continue through ch. 11 of Deuteronomy, you will see time after time that God is tying in the blessings and prosperity of his people with their faithfulness and obedience to his commands.
Joshua 1:6-8
"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.  Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful."
Again, a continuing emphasis on knowledge of God's commands and obedience to them in regards to his blessing and his people's success.
Genesis 13:2-3
"I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you.  I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on the earth will be blessed through you."
Of course, this one is referring to the call of Abraham as the Father of many nations.  A call containing a promise of blessings and prosperity in relation to a man who is known for having great faith and radical obedience more often than not by the grace of God.  A promise that was not completely fulfilled in Abraham's lifetime.  It was not fulfilled completely until Jesus was born through lineage leading back to Abraham.  A promise that, before it was fulfilled, saw many detours containing a lack of blessing and prosperity courtesy of disbelief and disobedience on the part of the Israelites.
Psalm 1:1-3
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither.  Whatever he does prospers. 
Delight and meditate in and on the law of the Lord, prosper, bear fruit.  Need I say more?
2 Corinthians 9:7-8
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
What is your motivation for giving.  Are you giving to obey or giving to receive.  Give with a willing, obedient heart. Give out of love for God, not obligation to God and he will bless abundantly so that you will have everything you need to accomplish his purpose in your life.
Matthew 6:33
Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well.
This of course is in reference to not worrying over your needs being met.  If you are putting God and the advance of his kingdom first, he will ensure that  you have all your needs met.
Luke 12:16-20
And Jesus told them this parable:  "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.  He thought to himself, What shall I do?  I have no place to store my crops.  Then he said, This is what I'll do.  I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I'll say to myself, You have plenty of grain laid up for many years.  Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.  But God said to him, YOU FOOL!  This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself."
Matthew 6:19-21
Jesus also said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Both of these scriptures call clear question to the topic of exorbitant savings or investments.  You might not live tomorrow. Personally I would rather leave a spiritual legacy for my children that says, "nothing that you have belongs to you, so instead of hording it for a rainy day or retirement that may never come, spend it on eternity now because you may not have tomorrow."  I want them to clearly understand that God will judge their hearts by what kind of stewards they were of what he gave them.  

All of these along with any other scriptures on this topic are stated in light of two ideas.  1.) that the prosperity and blessing of God is contingent upon obedience and a heart that desires God's glory.  2.) that the reason for God's blessing and prosperity is to accomplish his purpose.  
That purpose is the spread of the Gospel and the glorifying of His Name.  If we do not obey him we will either miss out on the blessing all together or experience trouble because we were poor stewards over that blessing. 

 Now, on to the next part and really, the primary thought of this two-part post.  What is the purpose for God's prosperity?  Why does God bless us?  Is it so we can have the house we always wanted?  Is it so we can have the newest car on lease, or the latest piece of technology?  Is it so we can eat out a whole bunch in the name of fellowship?  The answer is a resounding NO!  This begs the question: Are these things bad in and of themselves?  Also, NO!  What is bad is that we allow these things to take priority over the purpose for which God put us here.  That purpose is to glorify His name through fellowship with Him, by spreading the Gospel to the world, and by taking care of those that are desperately in need of being helped all over the world.

So how do we do that?  Well first we have to realize that this purpose is the command from Jesus to every believer/disciple that walks this earth today.  There are no exceptions.  Then we have to realize that the prosperity talked about all through the bible is not for our own personal gain.  It is PROVISION!  It is provision for the things that God is calling us to do.

The way that the Great Commission Matthew 28:18-20 plays out in each of our lives is going to look different.  Some individual journeys will require more resources than others in order to accomplish the commands that God has set before you.
Provision will come in different forms and quantities depending on the need.  If you find yourself with more than you need your first thought should not be, hey now I can buy that thing I've always wanted.  It should be God, all my needs are met and I have an abundance.  How would you like me to use it to benefit your Kingdom?  If your not sure yet and don't have peace about what to do then don't do anything.  Wait.  You may spend God's provision on something other than what he provided it for.

I have heard many stories of individual disciples and pastors alike who took this approach to managing God's provision.  Many of them had desires that were unnecessary to the furthering of the Kingdom.  But, they put God first and sometimes found themselves blessed with the very material thing that their hearts desired.  This without having to spend an ounce of the resources provided to them by God.  Now, I will grant you that this requires radical trust and obedience in your Heavenly Father but isn't that the point? 

Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will supply all of your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."  This verse is often quoted by itself as an encouragement to others in need.  However, unfortunately, I have not often heard it taught in the entire context of which it applies.  You see, Paul is saying this to the church at Philippi because they had been faithful in supporting Paul's needs while he was in prison.  And God had been meeting his needs through this church why?   Because as he makes clear all through Philippians, he considers nothing of value except furthering the cause of Christ and knowing him more.  He has learned to be content in every circumstance trusting that God will provide.  So God was faithful to supply Paul's needs through the Church and Paul tells them that because of this all their needs will be met.  

So often I have heard people talk about obedience to God, referencing the benefits almost as if they were bait.  If you do this, God's gonna bless you.  Then they often tell a bunch of stories about all the material blessings they received as motivation for obedience and that is exactly how people receive it.  It misses the whole point.  I know the bible includes mention of the blessings as well, but the blessings should not be the focal point.  Obedience is the focus.

   How about this?  Obey God because he commanded you to.  Obey God because in his infinite goodness he sent his Son to take the punishment for your sins.  So you would not have to experience the wrath that God has toward your sins.  Obey God out of a heartfelt gratitude for drawing you unto himself and saving you for all eternity.  Because of these things, YOU GET TO KNOW GOD!  And, YOU GET TO BE KNOWN BY GOD!  How about that?!  Compared to that, any other benefits, blessings, prosperity are icing on the cake and they pale in comparison.

 What's more is that when you come to this realization then your heart longs for His presence.  Your heart longs to obey Him.  You don't do it because you feel as though you have to.  You don't do it because your gonna get some material blessing out of it.  You do it out of an overwhelming gratitude to your Savior King.  You do because you finally understand what it means to LOVE HIM!  You finally desire the Giver over any gift, material or otherwise.  You will be willing to die for the cause of making sure that you are doing all you can to share the Gospel with those who have never heard it.  You will be eager to set aside personal desires in order to help make sure someone overseas or maybe even in your own town has clothes and food and medical provisions.
James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

These are the purposes for provision/prosperity that are nearest and dearest to God's heart.  These are the reason that God wants to prosper his people. He loves us enough not to give us everything we want, but everything we need.  Let us trust him enough not to pursue God's riches but his presence.  Believing that he has our best in mind and will withhold no good thing from us if it is in our soul's best interest to receive it.  Let us purpose in our hearts to fully understand God's heart.  His heart is that we as his church would long to glorify his name by using their resources to live lives worthy of the Gospel, striving to meet urgent spiritual and physical need around the world.

I pray this will come to pass in your life in increasing measure in the future.

In Jesus name,

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Purpose of Prosperity is Provision Not Self Indulgence (Part 1)

When I think about the prosperity gospel I just wanna scream, The Prosperity Gospel....AAAAAGGGGH!!  It's ironic I suppose because I have been hearing it, to some degree, from one source or another for years.  I was even sold on it to some extent for a little while.  Who wouldn't want to serve a God who is just waiting to poor out blessing on you.....especially if it's for your benefit?  That is in fact, where the problem lies.
    Contemporary Christianity has created a concept of Jesus as a drive-thru window.  Burger King Christianity, my way, right away.  Pull up, name it, claim it, and it's yours.  Or rather pull up to an empty building, speak that restaurant and food into being and enjoy your meal.
     These ideas tend to be based on a scripture taken completely out of context.  Romans 4:17 says, "As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations.  He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed--the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were."
This scripture is speaking of Abraham's faith and trust in what GOD had spoken.  This is the only place that uses this phrase about speaking things that are not as though they were and it is referring to God as the speaker, not us.  Yet we have taken this phrase and made it the basis for the "name it and claim it" concept.  This text in Romans is also part of a much larger multi-chapter discourse by Paul regarding salvation and righteousness.  It was not written as a discussion of how we can get what we want by placing demands on God.  We can proclaim HIS WORD which is still HIM speaking, but the results and timing are still up to him.
     Regarding getting what WE want, here is what the bible says about that.  "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4).  "This is the confidence we have in approaching God:  That if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him". (1 John 5:14-15)  
     Ok, so far we know that if we are delighting in the Lord and are asking for his will to be done in our lives that we will have that.  So how do we know what his will is?  Well, to know that we must do something.  In Romans 12:1-2 Paul states, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  THEN you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."
    One of the biggest problems in the world today is that we want God to do everything for us but we don't want to dig deep into our relationship with Him through prayer, study of the word, and application of the word to our lives.  We want to quote a few bible verses and go on living life our way.  That is not living according to his will.  If  you are not living according to his will then you probably WILL NOT pray according to his will.  If your lifestyle is selfish, your prayers most likely will be also.
Following Christ means loosing everything for him.  In fact in Luke 14:26-27 Jesus says, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple.  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."  In Vs 33 after a couple of examples he says, "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."
     Jesus, Paul, and John all drive a much tougher line in regards to what obedience and discipleship looks like than is taught and received in much of the church today.  However, what we need to realize is that we are not actually loosing or sacrificing but gaining and benefiting for as Paul said, "to live is Christ and to die is gain"(Philippians 1:21)  Paul goes on to say, "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."(Philippians 3:8-9)
Can you say that?  When your life reflects a relationship with Jesus in which nothing else has value compared to potentially sharing in the same suffering as Christ did and dying as Christ did, then you can say that that HIS will is of most interest to you.
         Another misconception is that because all God's promises are Yes and Amen(2 Corinthians 1:20), that must mean they will happen when we want them to.  That is not the case.  God knows our heart and and only God knows his divine plan for our lives and the lives of everyone we impact. The timing of God's provision, healing, any other promises and whether it happens in this life on earth or eternity spent with Jesus is entirely up to him. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."  
           To many faithful followers of God have died afflicted and not living in abundance to suggest that God always answers every prayer as yes, in this life.   Paul himself prayed to be delivered from affliction and God did not say yes because he knew that Paul would know the glory and strength of God better in his weakness. Paul also knew that whether having much or having little he could be content knowing that all things were possible through the strength that Christ provides. We must trust that God's plan for our lives, though difficult at times, is perfect and for our greater good.  He will sustain us and provide for our every NEED.  No matter the trial or tribulation, by His grace we can stand, knowing that his strength is made perfect in our weakness.
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Philippians 4:11-13) 
 Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

In the interest of brevity I will stop here and continue in part 2 of this post title.  I wanted to deal with some misconceptions regarding this topic in setting up to present that the bible does in fact promise prosperity and to discuss the "why's" of that truth.  It is much less shallow or selfish and much more purposed towards God's glory than today's church culture in much of American Christianity would have us believe.  So if I have peaked your curiosity, good.  If you are not a free subscriber to this blog then subscribe or come back and check out part 2 for the conclusion.  If I have made you mad or you think I am nuts, that's ok too.  At least read part 2 and get the complete thought process before you write me off or label me a heretic. Stay tuned.

 My ultimate goal is that God gets the glory in my life and the life of every reader of this blog.  If challenging you to pursue biblical truth and grow in your relationship with God is not the primary purpose behind every post then my efforts are meaningless.  If you have not trusted in Jesus as Savior and Lord then I pray my posts point you to him and that his Holy Spirit will draw you unto an eternal life that begins as soon as you are born again in Christ.

In Jesus Name,


Saturday, October 13, 2012

The sufficiency of God's grace

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the cares of this world that we forget why we are in this world to begin with.

 It is so easy to forget that the only reason we exist is because Almighty God created us.  The only reason that we wake up each morning and make it through to the next night is because God allows it.

 If we are genuine, God-fearing, God following, bible obeying, believers in Jesus then that makes us children of the Most High.(John 1:12-13)  If we are indeed Christians, we still find it easy to forget that the only reason we have eternal life is because God, by his GRACE, sent his son to drink the cup of God's wrath toward our sin.  The wrath, that we deserved to be the objects of, because of our sin.  We so easily forget that only by his GRACE, he sent his son to die our spiritual death for us, conquering that death so that we can have eternal life.  We forget that even the faith that we are saved through is a gift of God's GRACE.  We so easily forget that nothing we have done or will ever do can save us.  We are saved, our salvation is kept, and we are eventually made perfect in heaven ONLY BY HIS GRACE.(Ephesians 2:8-9)  Until then, we press on toward perfection as Paul did knowing that in our areas of weakness God will show himself strong because his grace is sufficient to do so.(2 Corinthians 12-9)  In this way, only he gets the glory.

It is also in his loving GRACE, goodness, kindness, and mercy that we are blessed to live in America with the freedom's that we have while others around the world are dying daily for the right to proclaim the name of Jesus.  That we live in an area that is saturated with the Gospel being preached so that we would have the opportunity to hear, believe, and obey while billions around the world have never even heard the name of Jesus.  We forget that by his GRACE most reading this live in a country that is still one of the most financially prosperous countries in the world.  A place where most of us don't have to worry about where our next meal is coming from or whether we can get medical care.  This while billions are dying around the world unnecessarily of starvation or preventable disease.

So let us begin to remember.  Let us remember the reason that we wake up each morning.  Let us remember how blessed most of us are to have a dry, safe place to call home.  Let us remember how blessed most of us are to know where our next meal is coming from.

And, most especially if we are believers, let us remember  that we have eternal hope, joy, and peace available to us in Christ Jesus.  All we have to do is live out our gratitude by putting the Holy Spirit in the drivers seat each and every day.  Submitting our lives to Jesus's Lordship in every aspect of our lives.  Making our faith and our salvation known by the fruit of our lives.  Fruit that is obedient to the word of God.  Fruit that takes care of the needy locally and around the world.  Fruit that puts our brothers and sisters needs ahead of our own. Fruit that causes us to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others because we have a revelation in our hearts that all around us people are living spiritually dead lives that will lead them to hell if they are not born again. (John 3:7)  Fruit that causes us to more lovingly be patient and kind with our children and our spouses.(James 2:14-26)  Fruit that causes us to submit to our authorities.  Fruit that causes to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.  Then your every need will be met.(Matthew 6:33)  Do not grow weary in doing good for in due season, you will reap a harvest.(Galatians 6:8-10)

Each night before you go to bed confess your sins and repent (turn away) from them.  Then you will have forgiveness(1 John 1:9).  Each morning, wake up and thank him for new mercies and compassions.  For the Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.(Lamentations 3:22-25)  You don't have to seek out his blessings.  If you simply seek Him, desire Him, live for Him, His GRACE  and blessings will abound in ways you could never have thought of yourself.  You will know his presence like you have never known it before. You will have your hearts desire because God's biblically based and spirit-led will for your life becomes your hearts desire.(Psalm 37-4)

So let us stop living selfishly and LIVE FOR THE LORD!  He loves you!  He created you by his GRACE, He saves you by his GRACE, and by his all sufficient GRACE He will never fail you!

In Jesus name,


Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Presidential election and Christianity? How do they fit?

Hello everyone.  As I watch the Presidential election coverage and all of it's ups and downs and watched as Facebook is inundated with opinions I have become keenly aware of something.  When it comes to politics in general, but especially the Presidential election, quite often you can't tell the difference between Christians and the rest of the world.  This is a problem.

We as Christians live in this world.  We function in this world.  But we are not supposed to think entirely as if we are of this world.  As Christians we are of the Kingdom of God. We are joint heirs with Christ in this Kingdom. We have a King who cares for the people of his kingdom as a Father cares for his children.  And yet we allow the political cares of this world to impact us in such a way that we live in fear rather than faith.
I heard Mrs. Romney say in an interview that many people she speaks with are frightened in our current economic state and are looking for certainty from the Presidential candidates.  With all due respect.  These candidates are not the answers we need.  Jesus is the answer we need.
We depend on our jobs, investments, insurance, retirement, government subsidies and the political leaders that appear to influence these things to the point that we forget who our source is.

Matthew 6:22-34 is a whole passage about worrying and why we shouldn't do it.  The crux of this whole passage that pretty much sums it up is Matthew 6:23-24 in which Jesus says, "But seek first the kingdom of  God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough  trouble of its' own".

This fear drives us to sin in multiple ways.  As I mentioned above, our mere lack of faith and belief that God is able to take care of us no matter what the world might say is sinful.  The idea that we are able to accomplish anything that will please God without including God in the equation is sinful.  It is sinful because to try to accomplish anything in this life while leaving God out of it defies his commands. Psalm 127:1 says, "Unless the Lord build the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guard stands watch in vain.  In vain you rise early and stay late, toiling for food to eat...for He grants sleep to those He loves". It is impossible to truly succeed in life without God as the author of your success.

This fear also drives us to react and speak before thinking.  It causes us to judge politicians for things that we ourselves are guilty of.  It causes us to speak slander, say ugly unproductive things, and sometimes even hate.     May I remind you that hate is the same as murder in the eyes of God(1 John 3:15, Matthew 5:21-22).  These are all sinful actions that do not glorify God.  Are our leaders held to a higher standard as public figures?  Certainly.  However, what we forget is that as "Christians" we are also.  Except the standard we are held to is not man's standard, IT IS GOD's.  Never should we be allowing others to cause us to forget who we serve and how he would have us treat others.(Mark 12:29-31)  How are others supposed to see Jesus in us if all we are showing them is the devil?

What does the bible say about how we should handle our leaders.  1 Timothy 2:1-3 says, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone....for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth".

We cannot be a light to the world if all we do is focus on and talk about the darkness.  We must proclaim the hope that can be found through Christ Jesus in every circumstance that his name may be glorified.  We need to be aware of this responsibility not only in the public arena, but also in our homes.  There we are most comfortable.  There we are most likely to say things that are not glorifying to God.  There we misrepresent the truth of the Gospel to our wives and children.  These are our most precious gift on this earth and our first ministry priority.  These are the ones whom we most directly effect.

Romans 13:1 says, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves".

This brings me to my next point.  GOD IS IN CONTROL!  Nothing has happened nor will ever happen that he has not been ordained by God.  He foreknew it all.  When Adam and Eve sinned, God was not surprised.  When Job lost everything it only happened because God allowed it.  Like Job, when Hitler instigated the Holocaust, it only happened because God allowed it.  God put Pontius Pilate in place knowing full well that he would assist in Jesus' crucifixion.  He put Nero in place knowing he would persecute and martyr many Christians.  It is one of the great curiosities of Christianity.  Man is responsible for their actions and still God is sovereign over it all.  He is always in Control.  As Romans 13 says, He put every authority in place.  He established it.  With that in mind, if we begin talking badly about people in politics, for better or for worse, we are in effect trashing the plan of God.  Remember, many bad things must take place before Jesus comes to reign on the earth and certain people must be in place in order for that to happen.

In Matthew 5:44-48, Jesus says, "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect,  therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect".

Jesus calls us to rise above fear, hatred, and shame and set an example.  He calls us to follow him.  He calls us to represent Him.   He calls us to trust Him. While we will never attain perfection until we get to heaven, Jesus commands that to be the aspiration of our hearts.. He has enabled us by his Spirit to pursue this and we must obey. He will hold us accountable.
 1 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity(fear,KJV), but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline(sound mind, KJV)".
Philippians 2:12-13 says, "Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose".
Colossians 1:28-29 says, "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all HIS energy which so powerfully works in me".
Philippians 1:27 says, "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ".
2 Peter 1:3 stated, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness".

You might be thinking.  Gee whiz Josh.  Why so much scripture.  You could have made your point with a lot less.  I gave so much scripture because I want us to see that on this topic as with anything else in our Christian walk that WE ARE WITHOUT EXCUSE!

In third world countries where people must sacrifice everything to follow Christ, everything in those Christians' lives revolves around God, as it should.  He is central and they don't have time to sit around trashing their leaders because they are to busy prayerfully showing gratitude to God, studying the word so as to be equipped, and sharing the Gospel with everyone they come across.  Here in America, we try to make God revolve around everything else.  This has to stop.  God's desire has been and always will be, to be central.  He is the reason we draw breath and yet we give Him our sloppy seconds when it comes to how we live our lives.  This is unacceptable.

Why don't we try putting God first, trusting Him with EVERYTHING, making God our partner in every decision?  Then we would see how eternally inconsequential are all the things that we call important in this world.  We would find that we were loving everyone and praying for everyone, whether we agreed with them or not.  We would find that we are most interested in their salvation because we would have the heart of God.

That is how ALL politics, including this election, and Christianity fit together.  I pray the Holy Spirit moves in your heart in a new way, removing old things, and making all things new.  I pray that we as a worldwide church body will continue to glorify Christ, exalting Him above everything else in our lives.

In Jesus name.  Amen

Love in Christ,


Saturday, September 22, 2012

What is our motivation?

Hello everyone.  I pray all are well.  This post stems from a concern about the state of the heart of many church goers and professing "Christians" today and what their true motivation toward obedience is.  Is it selfless obedience to the word and Giver of life, desiring only relationship with Him?  Or,  is it selfish obedience birthed out of a desire for the gifts and benefits that the word says could come from obedience?

The theme that encompasses Psalm 119  is one of a a love and value for God's word as the source of everything good in the life of a follower of God. The quintessntial vs that everyone quotes here is Psalm 119:11, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."    Joshua 1:8 states that we are to meditate on God's word day and night in order to obey it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is known as the Shema in Jewish biblical history.  It says, "Here O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates".

Over the last 18 years I have seen many shifts in focus, teaching, moves of the spirit, and absorption of the contents of the service by the congregation.  Many of the things I have seen have been themes in churches across the country.  Some are, unfortunately, still very strong themes in some churches.  I believe that at times the different contents of the service have been out of balance.

So what do I mean by contents.  Primarily, themes of teaching on giving in relation to prosperity or teaching on the gifts of the spirit and operating in those being a major focal point of much of the teaching and how the service functioned.  Gratefully among many in these movements, including my own church, the topics have shifted back towards the word, the Gospel, and evangelism.  Not that they have gone away completely but that the balance has returned on some level.  However, there are still those ministries whose primary message is man-centered.  Teaching still centers on the benefits of Christianity vs the cause of Christianity, Jesus.

Even, places where the teaching is all together relatively balanced and the word is becoming more and more the focus, there are still those in the body who question the spiritual life of the church because the "gifts of the spirit"  are not operating in the same way.  So there must be something wrong, right?  Not so much. You see, when the gifts of the spirit appeared to be operating more, people were just as lost as they are today because the gifts don't save anyone.  The same is true of prosperity.  Some look at how successful a Christians life is or how strong their faith is based on how prosperous they are.  When the fact of the matter is 1) Prosperity will not save you, nor is it evidence of Salvation, 2) You can't take it with you when you die, 3) Compared to much of the world, many of  the poorest Americans are rich.

One thing holds true, a preacher can teach as much solid, balanced, scripture based material as he is able.  But if a member of the Congregation has the wrong motivation then they will miss anything that doesn't line up with what they already believe.  Whether their motivation  is scripturally accurate or not.  There is enough unbalanced, or just plain bad teaching out there that anyone can find someone to tell them what they want to hear.  This begs the question, "What is our motivation"?  Well, it's Jesus of course, many would say.  Is it really?  The real question is, "What Jesus are you worshipping"?  The Jesus of the bible or a Jesus that you have formed to fit the image of who you want him to be?  If we are not careful we will find ourselves worshipping and being motivated by a Jesus that looks a lot more like us than he does the Jesus of the bible.  So who does the bible say that Jesus is?

John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God".  John 1:14 says, "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father full of grace and truth".   So, according to these two scriptures Jesus is the Word.

In John 14:6 Jesus says, "I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to Father but by me".
In Revelation 22:13 Jesus says, "I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End".
Philippians 2:5-11 says this, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant , being mad in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death---even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".

So what's your point Josh?  My point is this.  The bible makes it clear that the Word, not only consists of the letters on the page of the bible but also represents Jesus Christ himself.  The bible makes it clear that Jesus, The Word made flesh, humbled himself to become a servant of God to mankind.  And, that even as he was exalted through his obedience and love toward the Father, his ultimate purpose was that God the Father would be glorified.

Since as Christians, we have Christ on the inside of us through the Holy Spirit, then our primary purpose in existing is to bring Glory to the Father.  Our motivation should be no less than seeing Christ Jesus exalted in our lives by means of us taking the good news of his love and what he did for us to the world.  Just as Jesus did, we must share with the world of their need for Christ, because of sin, so that they will be able to fully appreciate the Gospel.  Nothing else matters.  Nothing else holds any eternal value except the eternal salvation of souls and the Glory of our Heavenly Father expressed in our daily gratitude for sending his Son to take the punishment that we deserve.

Praise be to God, who in all his attributes (Holiness, Justice, Wrath, Love, Mercy, & Grace) loved us enough to give us a pardon for our sin.  Let us not cheapen the sacrifice that was made and the price that was paid that we might have eternal life by making any blessing in this life more valuable than the surpassing greatness of knowing God himself.  Any positive byproduct of your Christianity is worthless if it does not drive you back toward God and his purpose for you which is to make his glory known among the nations.

I happened to be listening to a podcast message by Dr. David Platt, author of Radical and Pastor of  The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham AL, from February 2006.  I have been working on this post for three days but today I happened to hear this sermon by him.  He titled the message "The Ultimate Disconnect" and discussed the disconnect between the blessings of God and the purpose of God.  The purpose of the blessing being to accomplish the purpose of God which is to glorify His name.  If God's blessings don't motivate us towards that purpose then we have missed the point.  It was like listening to the thought behind this blog post on podcast.  I say this not to boast about me or the post but to point out that now almost 7 years later it is still important to God that we understand the connection between his blessings toward us and the purpose for those blessings.  

May your daily prayer be that your heart is drawn closer to him by his goodness and that your life's purpose begins to revolve more and more around God's purpose, the spread of the Gospel to a lost and dying world.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Love in Christ,

Joshua Newton


Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Persecuted Church

Hello Everyone.  I pray you are all well.

Christian churches around the world have set apart the month of November to remember and pray for the persecuted church through the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP).  Since November is upon us, I wanted to interrupt the series regarding marriage and draw attention to the persecuted church, aka. "The Beaten Bride of Christ" which is barely an afterthought for many Christians today.

I receive emails from a a number of different resources.  Among them are The Voice of the Martyers, Gospel for Asia, Open Doors Ministry, and Christian Aid.  Let me tell you, we need to pray for the persecuted church around the world.  There is coming a day when we will face persecution in this country the likes of which we have never known.

As an American Christian culture we get concerned when a song is repeated too many times or the service runs past noon or maybe if someone sits in our seat.  And don't dare challenge our religious rituals or even the scriptural relevancy of our beliefs.  Many Christians who don't get hung up on that stuff still live in blissful ignorance of the number of people around the world that are dying for the things that we take for granted.  Many of the great men and women of the bible died defending the Christian faith.  Many unknown men and women of faith are dying every day standing on the name of Jesus.

I believe that God is calling the church to get down to the business of the Gospel here in America and stop trying to please all the people that aren't really interested in true Christianity.  Jesus said that if we are truly following his commands, obeying him, spreading the Gospel that we WILL make enemies.  Even here in America.  We WILL be hated.  We WILL be persecuted.  So if we are not experiencing this then perhaps we should re-evaluate our obedience.

I don't mean to sound like I'm fussing but this is a serious issue that I believe needs a serious tone.  There are enough voices out there babying the mediocre, self-centered, lukewarm, half-asleep Christian culture.  These voices are spoon feeding a milk-laden, man-centered Gospel that does nothing to glorify God.  Instead of challenging the church with the serious meat of the word that will cause them to have growing pains but will cause them to mature, they are singing them lullaby's of Good News, grace without law, that makes them aware of having nothing more than fire insurance.  

I am aware of many professing "Christians" who are out there sitting under sound teaching and are still choosing to ignore the teachings and warnings of their Pastors.  They are biblically ignorant and happy to remain that way.  If they read the whole bible over and over they would come to a realization that much of what they believe doesn't hold water.  If they would come to church and their bible reading earnestly seeking to know what God says and not looking for whatever will reinforce their beliefs and forgetting the rest, they might actually grow.

I believe that God is giving America a call to arms spiritually.  In a country where Pastors are being thrown in jail on shaky grounds, based on shallow complaints surrounding assembly and discipline of children, we need to get ready.  In a country where people are told that they can't stand on a street corner and proclaim the Gospel or they might be arrested, to say nothing of the persecution that already exists in some countries surrounding the subject of homosexuality, we need to get ready.  No longer can we sit idly by and keep quiet.  We will be tested.

I encourage you to check out some of these sites listed at the beginning.  It will open your eyes to a whole big world that is not friendly to Christianity.  It will make you all the more grateful for the freedom you have here in America, for now.  And, perhaps it will cause you to ask God to help you get more serious about obedience to Christ in your own life and to begin to pray for those who are suffering or dying daily for their obedience.  Don't allow your callous ignorance to continue.  Make a change today and choose to live a life worthy of the Gospel.

In Jesus name.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

What is REAL family time?

I recently had the pleasure of preaching my first message at a Sunday night service at my Church.  I entitled it  "Are We Really Hungry".  I will post a version of it to my blog soon but I wanted to share a piece from it now in reference to an experience tonight.

In this message I deal with the idea that one of the excuses that we make for not coming to church consistently outside of Sunday morning (namely, Sunday Night) is that we call ourselves having family time.  If we took a poll of what kind of family time was being spent, especially on Sunday's, we would find that the time is often spent watching sports.  There is always the possibility of a family game being played, or a movie being watched.  I make the point that, in the case of watching a sports game, we are substituting passion for an inconsequential, make-believe battle between two sports teams for the time we should be spending preparing ourselves and our family for the very real battle in the spirit realm that wages around us all the time.   Nothing wrong with these times together, but to substitute them, for time spent together in corporate worship I cannot justify.

I make the statement that, there is no more valuable way to spend time with family than by coming together in corporate worship, setting an example for your children and your spouse that will have longer lasting effects than anything else you could do with that time.

This last Thursday and Friday night have proven that point.  My family and I have sat together, not on a Sunday night, but a "valuable" week night worshiping together and sitting under the teaching of the word together.  My wife, 8 yr old son, and 4 yr old son sat in the presence of the Almighty and took part in  services where the only agenda was that of the Holy Spirit.  Where people were saved and set free.  These particular ministers happened to be pastors who also have a worship ministry.  So you have teaching of the word interspersed with worshiping in song.  No rules, no religion, just Jesus.  We were fed together as a family in ways we never could have been sitting together doing anything else at home.  I long to set a lifestyle example for my children that revolves around God.  I pray that this is the beginning of a new way of living life in obedience to God as a family.  I pray that, as they should, our lives will begin to daily revolve around the word and worship, not requiring a church service to create that environment.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 says this:  "Now this is the commandment-the statutes and the rules-that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.  Here therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.  Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when your walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates".

Now, why type out all that.  I just wanted to be sure that we see and understand that anyone who thinks you can talk to much about God and his word or involve it too much in their lives is in direct contradiction to God.  This passage is to Israel, however, there are many other scriptures to support the fact that the truths stated here apply today.  That there is Nothing more important than being taught the word of God, reading and studying the word of God, and sharing the word of God with others.  It is of utmost importance.  In fact God's word says that if we want it to go well not only for us but for our children and our grandchildren that we must put God first and obey his commands.

God impressed it upon me during the Wednesday night service to make sure my family was there for the last two nights and I obeyed.  I am so grateful that I obeyed.  There is nothing more gratifying than knowing you are walking in obedience to God.  As a man, a God ordained spiritual head of the household, there is nothing more gratifying than knowing that you have gotten something right in the way in which you have led your family.  I still have a long way to go.

What I want anyone reading this to understand is that I am not chastising you.  I am not that far removed from the disobedient side of this equation.  This is a heart cry.  Please don't let another day pass by without putting God first. Without getting in the word and learning who God is, who you are in Christ and what his plans and desires are for your life.  Please don't let another week pass by making excuses for why you can't be sitting under more teaching at your church than just what you get in the brief Sunday morning sermon.  Pursue God for all that he is.  Creator, Judge, Ruler, Savior King, Father, Lover, Friend.  Prince of Peace, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

If you don't know Jesus as Savior and Lord then know this. Without Christ we are sinners in the hands of an angry God.  A God that in his holiness cannot even look upon sin.  A God that in his Holiness must poor out his wrath upon sin and sinners alike.  But, this same God that created the universe also created you, and he  loves you enough that he sent his one and only Son to die on a cross for your sins.  Jesus drank the cup of God's wrath toward your sin and experienced separation from God so that you wouldn't have to.  He provided a way of redemption.  He paid the price. He satisfied the judgement that had to come upon sin.

I pray, that if you have been feeling a tug at your heart, while reading this, or prior to reading this.  If you have felt on the inside that God was calling you unto himself.  I would say that now is the time.  The bible says that if you believe with your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord then you are a Christian.  It says that the Spirit of God will testify with your spirit that you are a child of God.  Just know that once you make him Lord, EVERYTHING WILL CHANGE......for the better.  The old you will pass way and a new you will begin appearing.  A you that revolves around Jesus and is led by his Spirit.  You will no longer be enslaved to the desires of the flesh.  If this has happened for you, start studying the bible daily, get in a solid New Testament bible teaching church and start serving Jesus with all you've got.

Let us, whom love the Lord, cease to idolize the things of this world, even our own families.  Let us cease to prioritize anything over selfless obedience to him who saved us from eternal destruction.

In Jesus Name, Amen

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Hello All!  It's been a while.  I've missed you.  :-)

It's been so busy here at work, church, and at home that I have been hard pressed to find time to post on my ministry blog.  Gratefully, I have been blessed with 8 hrs at work tonight in an environment that lends itself to personal productivity.  Since my last post I have preached a message at a Sunday night service at my church.  Very scary and exciting at the same time.  I have been interested in doing that for some time feeling more and more of a call to minister the Gospel.  God has been answering my prayers in that respect supernaturally.  Giving me the desires that he has placed on my heart in some respects without me ever saying a word to the necessary people.  As I experience blessings and trials side by side along the way I always strive to remember God's greater purpose for everything in our lives.  This is that his Glory and goodness would be made known to the ends of the earth.  I am so grateful that he called me out of darkness into his glorious light and I pray that if you have not experienced this, that you will soon.

I wanted to bring some thoughts on 9/11, knowing of course that it will be 9/12 when this post goes out. As I do, I would like to clarify that much of this will be a metaphorical parallel vs. actual spiritual judgement on any of the victims of 9/11 since I obviously do not know what the state of their hearts were with God when they died..  As always there is story after story regarding the events of that day.  Stories of horror by the survivors.  Stories of heroism.  Stories of bravery on the part of John Doe people on an airplane.  Stories of bravery among the many emergency and police personnel that day.

I think of how many people in the twin towers were not aware of just how perilous their situation was.  That soon the building would come collapsing down around them.  People milling around on the streets below having no idea of the danger they were in.  As the first tower began to fall and people began to run away, firefighters and policemen were running towards the danger trying to warn and rescue as many as possible.  Even after the first tower fell, with an inkling that the second tower could do the same, rescue workers continued to do their jobs with no thought for their own lives.  The brave souls on Flight 93 who, knowing that they would likely die, thought it important to make sure that they were the only ones who did. Many lost their lives that day to save another.  I would like to think I would have done the same.....Would you?

As Christians, we have a responsibility that we are shirking on a daily basis.  There is a spiritual 9/11 going on around us every day.  Satan is the spiritual terrorist, lurking, waiting for the moment when people are spiritually asleep to strike.  I think it's appropriate considering the metaphor that the bible calls him the prince of the air.   Except, instead of a few thousand people dying, there are millions dying daily around the world.  In our neighborhoods.  In our schools.  In third world countries that God holds us responsible for as if they lived next door.

These are people who do not know the truth.  They do not know that any minute their plane could crash into a building or the ground.  They do not know that any minute their building could come crashing down around them.  They do not know that any moment, their spiritual world could burst into an eternal, unquenchable hell fire!  They do not know that this doesn't have to happen.  That God loves them.  That he sent his son Jesus to experience the hell that we deserve so that we would not have to.

Who is going to tell them?  WE MUST!

IF you have true faith.  If Jesus is truly LORD of your life, then you must tell the world.  You are the fireman, or police officer.  You are the spiritual rescue worker running into that hellhole of a building to tell all those souls they are going to die for eternity without Jesus.

Can you imagine, what would have been said by people and media if all of the rescuers had sat idly by and done nothing on 9/11,   If they had either not seemed to care at all or worse yet said, my life is more valuable then theirs and I am not going to sacrifice it on their behalf.  They would have been eaten for breakfast by the media.  They would have lost their jobs and probably been shunned from their communities.  No one can imagine a firefighter sitting in his truck doing nothing beside a building in flames as families scream out the window for help.  That would be a travesty.

I would submit to you that if we sit by as supposed Christians and coldly watch the world around us die a spiritual death with no concern for their eternal destination that we are just like that firefighter.  He would be fired and possibly arrested for neglect.  I would suggest that if we lack concern for the lost and compassion for those in need that we are in danger of being eternally fired as well.  Or Rather that this lack of conviction in these areas would be evidence that we were never eternally hired to begin with.  The fruit of a true christian whose Savior is also Lord will have these qualities:  concern for the lost and compassion for those in need.  If we do not have these then we are lacking evidence of our true salvation.

I would invite you to read several passages. In John 15:13 Jesus says, "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends"James 1:22-27 speaks of not just hearing the word but doing what it says.  He goes on to say that true religion involves taking care of widows and orphans and keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 2:14-24.  In this passage James speaks to the fact saying you have faith is not enough.  Faith without works is dead.  You must have works as evidence of that faith.  Works that are full of compassion for the lost and those in need.  Matthew 25:31-46, regards Jesus separating the sheep from the goats (saved from the unsaved) and he relates it to acts of compassion for those in need.  Matthew 7:15-27, speaks of good trees bearing good fruit and bad trees bearing bad fruit.  It also states that those who put God's word into practice are the ones who have evidence of a solid foundation in their salvation. And of course Matthew 28:18-20 which is known as the Great Commission from Jesus to the disciples.

Does this mean that works earns us salvation?  Absolutely not!  Salvation is a free gift from God, by grace, through faith that we are incapable of attaining on our own Ephesians 2:8-9.  All of those other verses clarify the fact that we are not saved to simply sit around and continue enjoying the sinful nature.  We are not saved to a life that does not look any different than the life we were leading before we "prayed the prayer".  We are a new creation in Christ, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new(2 Corinthians 5:17).   If we are truly saved then, while our works do not save us, our Christian works will be an evidence of the overflow of Christ in us.  We will not do these things because we feel obligated to in order to be in right standing with God....that is impossible.  No, we will do these things because we love Jesus and our heart will be to do what pleases him.

So, if you are unsure of your salvation but you long to be sure then get in the bible and cry out to God to save you.  The bible says that the Holy spirit will testify with your spirit that you are a child of God.  That you will not need to be afraid and that you will be able to overcome the sinful nature because you are now led by the Holy Spirit.(Romans 8:13-16).  If you are convinced that you are a Christian and you are not actively pursuing the clear will of God for your life that is in his word for every disciple then I implore you to get in the word and begin crying out to God to place his desires in your heart.  Then you will find yourself as one of the firemen who is running into the burning, collapsing building telling the people of their need rather than the one sitting by doing nothing.  You will find yourself having a difficult time ignoring those in need as you become acutely aware of all that God has blessed you with.

In all this, know that God is not asking you to do this under your own power.  It is Christ who saves you and Christ who keeps you.  It is Christ who empowers you unto growth and transformation.  As Philippians 2:12-13, says, "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose".

 I would encourage you to double-click on the title of this post in your email.  It is highlighted in blue.  It will take you to my blog page.  There you will see a picture of someone who is most likely lost.  This comes from a ministry called Joshua Project whose sole purpose is to keep us aware of how many people groups out there are still without the gospel.  I invite you to double-click on that picture and check out the site.  Ask God to give you a heart for the lost and dying around the world.  They are in the billions.  Then ask him to give you a heart and compassion for the lost right outside your front door.  Be a courageous deliverer of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are currently dying in the spiritual 9/11 that burns around us every day.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Psalms Ch. 1

A scripture came into my head last night at work.  Not sure why.  It was Psalm 127 ESV "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.  Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!  He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate".

A note at the bottom let me to Psalm 1 ESV, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  IN all that he does, he prospers.  The wicked are not so, but arr like chaff that the wind drives away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish".

I felt like I should share these as a blog post today so here they are.

I do not know the purpose of God leading me to them and laying it on my heart to share them.  I do know that in this time when there is so much in the world to distract us from Jesus and the Word which are intended to be life to us, we would do well to meditate on these scriptures as a reminder of who our source is and where our strength comes from.  It is so easy to forget about God and try to do things our own way.  Taking control especially when the going gets rough, when that is the time that we should be running towards him the most and giving him full control if he did not have it to begin with.

I will leave you with this last scripture that the Lord led me to as well this morning which is in the same vain.

Proverbs 3:1-8 ESV, "My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of  days and years of life and peace they will add to you.  Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.  So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones".

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Whats in a Lyric? Part 2 ("Religious" music)

So the first part of this post was geared toward lyrics in secular music.  The question was, How much do we really consider the message in the lyrics of a song in relation to whether it pleases God or negatively/positively affects our Christian witness.  The next issue is "religious" music.  When listening to or singing along with contemporary christian music or praise and worship music are we really thinking about the message in the lyrics?

The first concern should be, is it biblical.  Now we can nitpick this a a lot and ruin a song, however it is very easy to enjoy songs who's content is based on bad, possibly unbiblical doctrine or bad theology.  Admittedly, I don't have a lot of examples because I have not researched for specific lyrics.  However, I have read and heard many concerns expressed in regards to this idea and recall thinking it about lyrics in the past. I will say this.  I think that the concern can be over or under analyzed.  I certainly think it is a thought process worth allowing to hang out under the surface.  If nothing else it will cause us to really think about what we are singing and if the content is biblically sound it will enhance our worship experience.  This leads me to the second concern.

Do we really think about what we are singing.  As a worship leader I can tell you of times when the lyrics of a song combined with the move of the spirit have totally taken my worship experience to another level.  However, I can also speak of times when my worship experience has been dry and unmoving when some of the same lyrics were being sung.  The same is true of solo experiences when singing special music.  The extent with which we engage our brains toward our worship affects our experience.  We must bring a sacrifice of praise.  That usually means intentionally engaging in worship even when you don't feel like it.  I have sung some songs several times and all of a sudden one day the real meaning of the words hit me and I had a WOW moment because the meaning of the song came alive.  So I would encourage you, whether it's a hymn that is loaded with doctrine or a simple praise or worship song that repeats the same idea over and over that you come to it each time with an intentional, positive attitude, considering what you are singing and who you are singing to or about.  Jesus is worthy of our best effort each and every time.  That is going to look different each time you worship depending on what is going on in your life but you and God know if you are giving it your all in that moment.  

It struck me the other day as I was listening to a teaching about Paul and a reference was made to his stoning in Acts 14.  Then they referenced 2Corinthians 4:8-9.  The ESV translation of this vs is "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies".
Sound familiar?  Those are lyrics from the song Trading my Sorrows.  When you think about those lyrics in relation to Paul's stoning it seems silly that we are jumping up and down singing "yes lord".  Don't get me wrong, I understand the  idea of rejoicing in the sustaining power of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to carry us through every trial and tribulation.  But lets face it.  How many of us have had to go through what Paul went through.  In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 Paul describes the sufferings that he had endured to that point.  Most of us think we are suffering if someone takes our parking place, or we have a hard busy stretch on the job.  Maybe even if we go through a difficult illness.  The lyrics that Trading my Sorrows use reference suffering for the cause of Christ that a very small percentage of American Christianity knows anything about.  Other countries however, where you may die for your faith or see family members die for their faith the very same day that they except Jesus, now those people know about modern day suffering for the cause of Christ.  

I think if we studied and considered more deeply the context in which scripture was written and on which some scriptural lyrics are based we would more greatly appreciate the Savior we are praising.  This process would bring a much deeper meaning to our praise and our worship.  See, it's not enough to not indulge in or meditate on worldly things, behaviors, or thought processes as mentioned in the previous part of this post on secular music.  No, we must pursue Christ. We must pursue all things Christlike and develop a hunger for them in our hearts, minds, and how we live our lives.  We need to always be thinking of whether our day to day worship is pleasing to God.  Whether it be the songs that we sing, the songs that we listen to, or the things that we do or don't do.  If we are truly going to have Christ centered lives then everything that influences our lives and that our lives influence must center on Christ.

I close with these two scriptural thoughts. Philipians 1:27 says to "let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ".  Romans 12 which I quoted at the end of the first part of this post states the idea that we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is our spiritual act of worship.  These thoughts encompass the essence of the expectation for purity and holiness that God desires for our lives.  Anything less is unacceptable to him.  So strive to rise to the challenge of meeting that expectation.  Cry out to Him for the grace and strength to succeed in this effort.  Not because you have to, but because you want to please your Heavenly Father and honor his Son for the sacrifice He paid so that you could have eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Glory Be To God!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Whats in a Lyric? Part 1 (Secular Music)

As I am developing the posts for the Gospel series referenced in the previous blog, I have come under conviction that I should share a concern that I have had for some time. Sharing it now is fueled by a couple of experiences as of late on the topic, the first of which I will share here. I have referenced it before but this will be a little more pointed.  Here goes.

Lyrics.  Do we really put much thought behind what we are singing. or listening to.  I wonder.  Recently, I have learned of a song that I have never heard before but is apparently very amusing and popular among country listeners, sinners and Christians alike..  It is called Red Solo Cup.  I hear it spoken of with much affinity.  I have heard enough of the lyrics quoted to get an idea what the song is about.  As a matter of a fact, just now, I looked it up to make sure I quoted correctly the artist Toby Keith as it's originator.  I must admit I giggled.  My flesh enjoyed it's humor and ridiculous tongue in cheek approach.  So before I go any further let me clarify that I understand the temptation, even for Christians, to be amused and even feel drawn to the hoky feel and catchy hook of the song.  Especially if you are a musician or vocalist.

However, as much as my flesh is tempted to enjoy and giggle at this silly song and video that wasn't even intended to be a hit.  My spirit, is grieved and my heart is heavy.  This song, and especially the video, glorifies everything carnal, sinful, and ungodly.  This song is a perfect example of how Satan functions in deceptive fashion to grab the hearts of the world and the Christian alike and numb them  in regards to the sensitivity and intolerance that God has for the sinful nature.  Even if you haven't seen the video, as a Christian, the knowledge that we have of the worlds idea of a party should throw up red flags when it comes to a song like this, simply from the lyrics.

Is this song alone.  Absolutely not!  Most secular music today, no matter the genre, is geared toward subtly glorifying things ungodly.  Oh the writer or artist may not have that at the forefront of their mind when writing or performing these songs but the message is still glorifying of sin.  This is the devil's desire.  Some songs do it blatantly through hardcore gangsta rap or hard rock.  Others do it through country or alternative music.  Even love songs often allude to nighttime or bedtime activities of those in love with no allusions about whether the characters involved are married or not.  Is this to picky of a view point?  Some might say, you are reading into it Josh!  Maybe.  However, in a world where sexual immorality is acceptable and prevalent I think we as Christians should be just that nitpicky about what we listen to, expose others to, or even put out ourselves if you happen to be an artist.  Some might call this legalistic, I call it biblical.  After all, the bible does say to avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).  Phillipians 4:8 lists all the things that God would have us meditate on.  Wild parties and drunkeness, violence and sexual immorality are not a part of this list  No, they are rather sins of the flesh(Galatians 5:19-21).   Obviously these are convictions that the Holy Spirit has to bring however, once light is shed on potential sin and disobedience in that area, we are responsible to seek God and ask him to confirm it in our spirits, if it is biblically accurate, and to help us remove that from our lives.

There are two primary issues of concern here.  1) Are there things in our lives that are displeasing to God?(Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:17-32)  2) Are there things in our lives that could be a stumbling block to weaker believers or to unbelievers?(Romans 14:13)  True that it is God who saves, however He will hold us accountable for our influence in the lives of those around us. Either by what we do through sinful disobedience or what we don't do through righteous obedience.
Obviously there are many more scriptures to support the validity of these concerns.  My desire is never to suggest a legalistic approach to living out your faith.  Rather to create a thought process for biblical obedience that is pleasing to God and useful for building up the Body of Christ.  I want to be careful to clarify that I am not advocating any change in our lives as a work unto salvation.  We are saved by grace alone.  However, in the process of sanctification aka. transformation as an evidence of the salvation that God has already provided, we should always be examining our lives for anything that would reflect poorly on Christ in us.  We cannot be the city on a hill shining the truth of the Gospel for all the world to see if we are tolerating or excusing sin in our lives, no matter how small..  We must guard our hearts and the hearts of those within our realm of influence from worldly, ungodly things at all times.

Therefore I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy. to present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, for this is your spiritual act of worship. Be no longer conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will  (Romans 12:1-2). 

Love in Christ,

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Gospel..A false expectation, An Ineffective presentation

     I apologize in advance for the length of this post, however I believe this is a matter that should not be cheapened by issues of brevity.  It is loaded with heavy thoughts on a serious and eternal issue.  I pray you will see it through to the end and ask God what encouragement or challenge he may have for you in this post.
Here we go.
    In this age, when the culture is already corrupting us, unfortunately the Gospel Message has been watered down into a consumeristic, soft serve message designed not to create any fear or any offense. After all, the Gospel is "GOOD NEWS"!  Right?  Of course.  But, what is Good News without some Bad News?  It's just news.  People do not realize they need to be rescued, unless they are informed they are in trouble.  They will not understand that they need a Savior, unless they are informed there is something to be saved from. They will not understand that Salvation, without repentance and Lordship, not as the cause of salvation but as evidence of salvation, is not Salvation at all. They will not understand that they cannot accomplish this on their own.  They need the grace of God provided by the Holy Spirit to come into their lives, save them, and empower them to continue the growth process.(Phillipians 2:12-13)  They need to understand that Salvation, from the moment they are born again until the moment they are made perfect in heaven, is only possible by God's grace.  That they are incapable of walking out that faith, unless God places that gift of faith inside of them.  They need to understand that there is no goodness in them capable of accomplishing this(Romans 3:9-18)  That without the price that Jesus paid on the Cross, all our righteousness is as filthy rags(Isaiah 64:4-9) We are all evil sinners deserving of God's wrath.  We deserve his wrath because God hates sin.  He is perfect and cannot tolerate sin.  So he must separate himself.  That is why God sent Jesus to drink that cup of wrath and take on the penalty of our sins on the cross.
      Today's evangelistic message tends to be, Jesus loves you.  He died for you.  He wants to come into your heart.  All of this is true  Now pray this prayer and get baptized and you will  go to Heaven.  All of this is partially accurate.  But, it is an incomplete message.  There is no mention of repentance, of dying to oneself.  The focus is much more on Eternal Life than Eternal Death. So many want to talk about God's love, goodness, mercy, and blessings.  That's great for those who are already soundly saved to understand.  There is however, a whole other side of the story.  There is God's wrath, jealousy, justice, and judgement.  That is much more pertinent to the need of the lost.  Oh, we can't talk about that. Why?  We might offend or drive someone away?  They are all attributes of God and His most Holy love encompasses them all. Many of the great presenters of the Gospel in years past (Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitfield, D.L Moody, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Matthew Henry, A.W. Tozer  and many others of their day) believed in preaching the whole truth.  They would not steer away from the use of the Law of the Ten Commandments and the mention of Hell.  No.  They would begin with it in hopes of planting seeds of conviction among their listeners.  In fact, they believed the law of the Lord was essential to conversion of the soul(Psalms 19:7). The law makes us aware of our need for Christ(Romans 3:19-20).  In John 6:44 Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father that sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day".  It is not our responsibility to decide whether anyone chooses to follow Christ.  Our responsibility is to share the whole truth with the world because the knowledge of the truth will set them free. (Matthew 28:16-20; John 8:32)  So we do not have to avoid truth for fear of offense.
        If the lost do not understand the fullness of God then they are committing to an incomplete idea of who God is and what the complete idea of His love is. It will be difficult for converts to fully appreciate God's love and grace if they do not also understand God's wrath toward sinful man.  Think of it this way. It is difficult to fully appreciate and understand the glory of the cure for a disease unless we first realize that we have a disease and it is TERMINAL.  The gravity of that disease must be explained and THEN a person understands just how badly they need and want the cure.  Many ministers, myself included, are concerned that this incomplete presentation of the Gospel is leading to more false converts than anyone wants to admit.
     Today's contemporary Gospel message tends to be, "accept Jesus into your life and He'll give you love, joy, peace, fulfillment, and lasting happiness".  It rarely makes mention of the persecution verbally, emotionally, and physically that is promised in the Bible.  Sometimes, unto physical death. When Jesus called others to follow him, It wasn't warm and fuzzy.  In three different Gospels (Luke 9:23; Mark 8:34; Matthew 16:24) Jesus says, "if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.  DENY himself?  Take up his CROSS?  Doesn't sound much like the seeker sensitive, positive thinking, prosperity based message that is often preached today does it?  Jesus said, "Foxes have holes and birds have the air, but the Son of Man has no where to lay his head. (Luke 9:58; Matthew 8:20)  This was in response to someone expressing interest in following him.  Not exactly a positive invitation.  I am not saying that God will not bless us.  God says He will supply for our every need according to his riches his and glory(Philippians 4:19) whether that requires natural or supernatural provision.  And yes the Bible speaks of prosperity and increase.  However, none of these were major talking points for convincing anyone to follow him.  He never said, "I have a wonderful plan for your life"   He never told them how to get their "best life now". Paul said, "you were dead in your sins"(Eph 2:1, Col 2:13) and Jesus said "no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again".(John 3:3)  He said, "no man comes to the Father except the spirit draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day".(John 6:44)  The focus of the Gospel needs to be taken off of the creation and placed back on the Creator.  The focus needs to be taken off of the gifts and placed back on the Giver.  Being blessed and provided for should be a result of our salvation and obedience, NEVER the motivation for desiring salvation or being obedient..  If someone trusts in Jesus based on the idea of having a "blessed" life then when they experience trials, tribulations, and persecution they will likely not withstand them.
    Many Christians, in regards to evangelism, want to think that the Gospel is so simple and easy. They paint a pretty picture of the goodness of God, say confess and believe and "pray this prayer with me" and eternal life is yours.  Now I am not saying that is not part of it however, in Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says, "Enter through the narrow gate, For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many will enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and few will find it".  Clearly there is more to it than believing and praying a prayer.  There must be a transformation. The bible says we are a new creation in Christ.  Old things pass away.  Thus, We cannot remain the same after a genuine salvation experience.
    Scripture also makes it clear that practicing religion is not be enough to guarantee you eternity. 2 Timothy 3 makes references to godlessness in the last days.  He lists all kinds of sinful behavior and then in vs. 4-5 he says "they are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of Godliness, but denying it's power.  In vs. 7 he makes reference to people who are "always learning, but never able to acknowledge the truth".
         In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out many demons and in your name perform many miracles?  Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you, away from me you evil doers".  In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus talks about the separation of the sheep and goats based on how they treat "the least of these".  He says the goats who did not take care of "the least of these" will go away to eternal punishment. Matthew 7:24-27 shows Jesus refering to those having a solid foundation as the ones who put God's word into practice.  Those who do not, will not have a solid foundation and will not stand in the end.
     So if the Gospel is so simple, then why does it seem like so many will miss the mark.  Why does it seem like our salvation is tied to works?  What about the Love?  What about the grace and mercy?  What about the cross?  I'm glad you asked.
      The bible makes it clear that if we are truly born again that it is by grace through faith so that no man may boast(Ephesians 2:8-9). Then the works, that are the faith based evidence of our salvation, will be evident in our lives.  Not that we work in our own power to attain or keep salvation, but that the same grace through the cross that saved us, will also work in us, enabling growth, enabling escape from the grip of sin and the things of this world,  and enabling us to obey every command that God has given us in His Word. Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose".  (Philippians 2:12-13)  
     It is our responsibility as ministers of the Word, who are responsible to make disciples (that is ALL Christians) as well as every pastor, that we encourage people to check their hearts, words, actions, and motives daily.  Sometimes it seems we are so concerned about encouraging the body of Christ and not causing them to doubt their faith that we avoid the entire truth of what it means to follow Jesus and how it represents the reality of our salvation. In 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 the apostle Paul says this, "examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test  yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you---unless, of course, you fail the test"?  
     So, if it is God who saves you, and God who keeps you according to scripture(2 Timothy 1:12, Hebrew 12:2) then it stands to reason that if you fail the test, you were never saved to begin with.(1 John 2:19)  There is still hope.  My prayer is that if anyone has concerns about their salvation that they come desperately before the throne of Grace and cry out to God that he would save them. 1 John 2:3-6 says, "We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, " I know him, but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in him.  But if anyone obeys his word, , God's love is trully made complete in him.  This is how we now we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did".  If we find this to be true then we have nothing to fear.
      The Gospel in it's entirety should be the driving force behind everything that we do and say.  It should not only be lived out, but spoken into the hearts of listeners in our path every opportunity we get.  That is the greatest act of love that we can show.  If we truly believe that billions of people around the world are going to die an eternal death without Jesus and we do not love our fellow man enough to show and tell them the truth of the Gospel and their desperate need for Jesus then we are not walking in the completeness of God's love and Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 that if we have not Love, then everything else is worthless.   In fact, there is a possibility, according to 1 John 2:3-6, that God will have some serious questions for us, IF he even knows us. 
      I will be writing a few more posts clarifying and fleshing out some of the ideas in this post.  Think of this as a preamble to the next several posts dealing with salvation and evangelism. 
       I write plainly and seriously because this is serious business.  People are going to HELL and the church is not doing much about it.  My love for the Church and for the lost grows daily. My concern for the potential lost souls IN the church buildings grows daily.  My hunger is to not only to see myself grow in obedience to the Word and knowledge of the Word, but to see the Church grow in an obedience to the Word and knowledge of the Word that will empower them to biblical evangelism and discipleship.  There is NO greater cause on this earth than glorifying God through the spread of the Gospel. 
     I continually pray that these posts though direct at times, will be able to be received in a loving way.  My desire is not to chastise but to jumpstart.  It is always out of love first for Jesus, then for the people, that I ever post on any topic.  May every post be covered by God's grace and every heart be prepared to receive whatever God would have them receive as they read these posts.

Love in Christ,